…And Will Never Again Be Free
We’ve lost a core human freedom: the right to freely move about in society. While it may seem like we are still quite able to go where we wish without disruption, due to mass surveillance, including what is becoming ubiquitous facial recognition, we have lost the freedom to move about without trepidation. For those persons who would argue that as long as you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about, the reality is that now one must be aware of one’s behavior at all times in a way that may call for modification as a means of protection. That means law-abiding citizens are no longer free to move about in society in unabashed freedom.
This behavior modification option attached to loss of the crucial freedom to move about in society without hindrance stretches into our rights to other freedoms afforded democracies. We must consider our online options, our speech, our presence in society in new ways that have slowly become customary in some ways without revealing their awful, tentacled roots. The term ‘we’ does not apply to the tech and government elites who are behind software and hardware surveillance, of course. They are, in a sense, immune, watching each other’s backs while they snatch and record everyone else’s activities. Who would call their inconsistencies and hypocrisies into question, when it is they themselves who control the primary databases?
Some would argue that there is still time to save us from this Orwellian nightmare. But that’s simply not true. Even the most astute politician is running so far behind a technological advancement posited in permanence by largely unregulated corporations and rogue entities that there is simply no way to catch up. By the time policy and regulation come into play, it can only be done to some benefit of the entity already deploying the sophisticated invasive technologies. One can argue that the latest ruling in Illinois on biometrics and privacy is a step forward, and it is, of course. But, apart from still being too little too late, it is Illinois, not the United States. And it is a singular case, regardless of how much of its consequences spill out into the legal sphere. It can’t, and won’t, decide everything related to biometrics abuse, the vast number of instances we would likely not even know about because exposing and fighting them in courts is so daunting.
Gone are the days when we could go online without concern over what we do there. We’re not talking illegality, but simple innocent clicks and transactions that are recorded and dumped serendipitously into the permanent archive. Actions that for average netizens cannot be undone. While Europe has done what is can to date with its Right To Be Forgotten, it is not a perfect schematic, and is subject to so much discretionary response that it can be hailed only as a mere attempt. Of course, that is better than nothing in some ways. It shines a light on a critical issue.
And that’s our problem. This brief essay shines a brief light. It does nothing more. While it may spark response, most likely it is in discourse alone, not effectual policy and regulation. Even were it to be believed, and in the hands of those persons capable of interfering for the benefit of society moving forward, its limits in the vast sea of never-ending data aren’t going to change anything. We’ve lost our freedom to navigate through life without circumspect, and at times paranoid, steps we must take to protect ourselves. And this lost freedom is an essence of our very being.